The first debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign did not disappoint, as 10 of the top Republican candidates faced off Thursday in a spirited and sometimes feisty dialogue in Cleveland, Ohio.
The debate, broadcast on Fox News, was expected to draw a massive TV audience, thanks in part to the presence of Donald Trump, the colorful, blunt-speaking billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star.
The event quickly lived up to its expectations. In the opening minutes, moderator Megyn Kelly challenged Trump on his past insulting and crude comments toward women.
"You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals,’ " Kelly said.
"Only Rosie O'Donnell," interrupted Trump, referring to the comedian and actress whom he has frequently sparred with in the past.
When further pressed on the issue, Trump continued: "I think the big problem that this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I frankly don’t have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore."
Trump's comment raised eyebrows among analysts on Twitter:
Somehow Trump thinks not calling women "fat pigs" is political correctness as opposed to basic human decency.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) August 7, 2015
America is losing to China because it%27s not okay to say women are "fat pigs".— Will Wilkinson (@willwilkinson) August 7, 2015
For her own part, O'Donnell responded with a brief comment:
try explaining that 2 ur kids— Rosie (@Rosie) August 7, 2015
Analysts were mixed on the issue of whether the debate performance will help or hurt the chances of Trump, who is leading in most recent opinion polls.
Before declaring the end of Trump, I would ask yourself: What did he say or do different in this debate than he%27s been doing?— Ginger Gibson (@GingerGibson) August 7, 2015
Kasich and Rubio gained the most. Bush and Walker were neutral. Trump did fine, but his act will wear thin.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) August 7, 2015
Trump has clearly influenced this entire race because we are watching a reality show.— Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox) August 7, 2015
WATCH: Andrew Palczewski at Capitol Hill's Union Pub with debate watchers
'Happy Hour' debate
In the earlier debate featuring candidates that did not meet Fox News' polling threshold, many saw former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as the clear winner.
Carly Fiorina game plan is clearly bring the 🔥🔥🔥— Kristen S Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) August 6, 2015
They should invite carly fiorina back for the 9 oclock debate— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) August 6, 2015
Fiorina was also seen as the clear winner according to a measurement of how often her and other candidates' names were searched on Google during the earlier debate.
The two leading Democratic presidential candidates, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Governor Bernie Sanders, also followed along.
The very rich get richer, everyone else poorer. And Republicans who take campaign money from billionaires have nothing significant to say.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 7, 2015
It%27s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That%27s why the Rs are so out of touch.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 7, 2015
?The first Democratic debate is set to take place on October 13.
By Friday, Twitter and Facebook said Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson rated near the top in social media mentions during the debate.
Trump delivered some of the most talked-about moments, garnering the most mentions on Twitter, with 30 percent, while Carson was a distant second, with 12 percent of mentions.
Trump was also the most-discussed candidate on Facebook during Thursday night's debate, with Carson again behind him, and Trump was the most searched name on Google, according to data released by the companies.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who ranked second in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, placed seventh in Twitter mentions.
According to Facebook, which said it saw 7.5 million people making 20 million debate-related interactions, the most-discussed issues were immigration and race relations, followed by the economy.
Both Twitter and Facebook said the most talked-about moment on their platforms came between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
Democrats did not debate Thursday, but Hillary Clinton still snagged some media attention online.
Reality television and social media star Kim Kardashian posted a photo on Facebook with her husband, Kanye West, and Clinton, the former secretary of state.
"I got my selfie!!!" Kardashian tweeted. "I really loved hearing her speak & hearing her goals for our country!"
Some material for this report came from Reuters.